The Role of National Anthems in Constructing National Identities in the Atlantic World

**Note: Since this paper originally used footnotes (which could not be transferred over), in-text citations can be provided upon request.**

Beginning in the late 18th century, the Atlantic world experienced a birth of new states rooted in common ideas such as liberty. These newly created nations were no longer connected by ethnic similarities, but instead by ideas and values, bringing together people of more diverse backgrounds than nation-states in the centuries before. New legal systems and governments outlined these new ideas in constitutions, but this was mere state-building. Identity on the other hand, is rooted in nation building. The births of the French Republic, the United States, Liberia, and Haiti involved revolutionary action that united them during their struggle against superior powers. However, this unifying idea of revolution tends to fade once the oppressor is removed, resulting in crucial years of instability. One way to unify people during this time was music. Historically, music has played a central role in forming cultural identities. For many years, music was intrinsically tied to ethnicity, serving as a form of homogenous bond. In the absence of homogenous bonds, members of these new countries combined music with the states’ foundational ideals, leading to the creation of national anthems. National anthems combined shared ideas, values, and history in an emotional context, ingraining these unifying forces into a new culture and creating national identities in nascent, revolutionary states. 

During the French Revolution, Claude-Joseph Rouget, a captain in the French army, composed “La Marseillaise,” a national anthem for the new French Republic. When it was written in 1792, radical ideas of overthrowing aristocratic rule in search of liberty dominated the political and social scene. The anthem is a violent call to arms to defend against the invasion of anti-revolutionary, Austrian and Prussian troops. The translation reads, “Against us tyranny’s/Bloody standard is raised” and that “It is us they dare plan/To return to the old slavery,” uniting French citizens around the threat to their foundational ideas of liberty and equality. Rouget’s emphasis of “Liberty, cherished liberty” contributes to the fact that the anthem is not an aristocratic song, but one about “the people” and their equality. As the revolutionary country continued to survive, it became necessary to remind its people about the history of their common values in order to keep them unified as a people. In particular, the ubiquitous violence throughout “La Marseillaise” is essential in conveying the struggle for the values that created the new country in the first place. 

While written documents can recount the history of the struggle for liberty, such a medium is less unifying than an anthem that evokes strong emotions for all who hear it. In fact, the original purpose of the anthem was to rally together the French people in defense of their recently won freedoms. This anthem was a more effective rallying call than other mediums because it successfully employed emotions to unify people around their values. This is exemplified by an unnamed English historian who wrote that “the sound of it will make the blood tingle in men’s veins … with hearts defiant of death, despot, and evil.” “La Marseillaise” was effective in creating a national identity because it transformed ideational bonds into emotional bonds of common values, to the point where the song itself became “a symbol of revolutionary nationalism.” La Marseillaise was grounded in the same shared ideas and values of the new French Republic, but its emotional incorporation of such abstract concepts constructed a national identity, rooted in the heart. 

Named after the flag of the United States, the “Star Spangled Banner” did not become the official national anthem of the country until the 20th century; however, its unofficial use as a patriotic song helped shape the American national identity beginning in the 19th century. The lyrics were written by attorney Francis Scott Key in 1814 after he observed the American flag’s survival of the bombardment of Fort McHenry. The song’s origin in the War of 1812 is less revolutionary, but its narrative, reverent description of the nascent country’s flag symbolizes the shared ideals of freedom and bravery on which the United States was founded. All four verses of the anthem end with the same words: “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” This line does not simply repeat the core values of the country, but rather demonstrates that the flag remains, just like the United States. The flag alone is a symbol of nationalism. Incorporating the meaning of a flag into a song of veneration further emphasizes the ideas upon which a national identity is formed. Similar to “La Marseillaise,” the US national anthem describes a historical period of war in which the nascent country is an underdog fighting to retain its fundamental values. While the anthem does not explicitly mention many ideals or values, its narrative of war and American resolve helped remind citizens of America’s fragility, but also provided a common history. In a country of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, it was crucial to weave a uniquely American history with its values. Although “the rocket’s red glare” and “the bombs bursting in air” demonstrate no unifying characteristics without context, their inclusion into the national anthem is paramount in creating a history that all Americans could relate to, in order to fuse the foundational values with a new American culture.

National anthems must evoke an emotional response to create a new culture. Key’s intense emotional response to the sight of the surviving flag bound Americans together because it inspired them to embrace the meaning behind what would otherwise be a mere piece of fabric. This embrace constructs a stronger national identity than famous American texts that communicate the same ideas and values because national anthems inject such beliefs into everyday culture and life. Key’s choice of music to accompany the lyrics of the anthem assist this process through the use of syncretism. “To Anacreon in Heaven” was a popular English drinking song that had a “track record of popularity in the United States by 1814.” Using a melody that was already prevalent allowed the national anthem to spread and inject itself into American popular culture. When this melody was coupled with its revolutionary lyrics, it more effectively constructed a national identity. Decades later, “Key’s song became especially popular and a powerful expression of patriotism during the Civil War, with its emotional description of the enduring national flag, which had become the symbol of the still-new nation.” Even in times of utter turmoil and division, “The Star Spangled Banner” reminded citizens of what truly makes them a nation. After writing the national anthem, Key later became involved in the American Colonization Society, advocating for freed American slaves to return to Africa, thus linking him to another new country in the Atlantic world: Liberia.

Liberia stands out among these four Atlantic countries in that its creation was not the result of a direct, violent revolution. Yet, the idea of repatriated and self-governed land truly embodies the spirit of nascent countries in the age of Atlantic revolutions. Written by Daniel Bashiel Warner in 1847 (the year of independence), Liberia’s national anthem is titled “All Hail, Liberia, Hail.” The title alone speaks volumes about its purpose and meaning. In 1847, even the conception of Liberia was not yet understood. Independent West African countries were rare. The title adds an element of reverence to “Liberia,” not simply the state itself, but also all of the ideas and values that it represents. The third line, “This glorious land of liberty shall long be ours,” exemplifies the lengthy push for freedom after centuries of slavery. Due to the diverse background of the ex-slaves that founded Liberia, a shared identity of freedom was necessary. For Liberians, the shared experience of slavery formed a new national identity around this bond. A modern Liberian citizen, James Thomas-Queh, writes in a blog post that “history is like a culture in its entirety.” He also argues that “no one understood the vital role of history in the nation building process and the unity of a people better than our founding fathers. They were united around their common historical affinity—freedom from slavery—to pursue a common objective of establishing a nation of theirs despite all the numerous obstacles and odds against them.” Thomas-Queh highlights the interconnectedness of ideals, history, and consequently identity that all manifest themselves in the national anthems of nascent countries. In particular, he highlights the underdog status of Liberia’s creation, which is further demonstrated through the lyrics, “We’ll shout the freedom of a race benighted.” This line fuses the idea of freedom, the shared history of oppression, and the unlikelihood of the country into a powerful chant, delivering more emotion than melancholy words on paper. 

The emotional aspects of the Liberian national anthem arise from the personification of the country. Aside from the reverence demonstrated in the title, one stanza states, “Though new her name,/Green be her fame,/And mighty be her powers.” This stanza explicitly mentions that the concept of Liberia is new, and uses personification (“her”) in order to emotionally connect its new citizens to the ideational values it represents. Connecting history to emotion, Thomas-Queh writes that “we must walk with our heads up high, emulate [our founding fathers] in confronting collectively the challenges to our national destiny. And we must do so by singing aloud.” This act of singing elicits a stronger emotional response than other forms of expression, and physically brings people together. His claim that “cultural diversities serve as the richest national cultural heritage” also further connects this national identity to shared ideas instead of shared bloodlines. Thus, while Liberia was not a state formed out of violent revolution, it similarly defied the odds. Assisted by its national anthem, Liberia was able to unite thousands of ex-slaves by creating a new culture for black Africans that defied the power structures of the 19th century Atlantic world, constructing a national identity rooted in their newfound freedom, not just their former oppression. 

Haiti similarly exemplifies a country of ex-slaves rooted in the idea of newfound freedom, but unlike Liberia, its inception was wholly dependent on a violent revolution that overthrew the white oppressors. Although Haiti declared independence from oppressive rule in 1804, its national anthem was not written until a competition for it occurred during Haiti’s centennial celebration. The anthem is titled, “La Dessalinienne,” which translates to “The Dessalines Song” in English. The namesake is of revolutionary hero and first ruler of independent Haiti, Jean-Jacque Dessalines. Although the blacks in Haiti were necessarily united in their effort to defeat a more powerful enemy, diverse ethnic backgrounds did not guarantee the creation of a national identity after the expulsion of the white oppressors. The national anthem uses the word “we” in all five stanzas, which “call for unity, the need for hard work, the importance of a strong legacy, respect and protection of the ancestors, and the love of the flag as symbol of the nation.” Many of the lyrics use imperative language and compel unified action to strengthen the new nation, such as “We must walk hand in hand” and “We must be ourselves’s [sic] unique master.” The latter strongly references independence and freedom, which thrusted Haiti into existence. Therefore, this anthem deeply demonstrates the link between ideas and history, beginning with the name itself. 

Naming the anthem after a revolutionary figure highlights the importance of integrating the revolution into a national identity centered around its ideals. While the line “People are not born to serve others” exclaims a central Haitian belief, the subsequent lines “That is why all mothers and all fathers need to send children to school to learn to know what Toussaint, Dessalines, Christophe, Petion did to take Haitians from under the white’s rope” directly underscores the role of a shared and unifying historical memory. And, although these Haitians possessed different ethnic and previous cultural backgrounds due to the forced movement of blacks across the Atlantic, the emotional reminder of common values and history was made possible through the national anthem. The efficacy of “La Dessalinienne” is demonstrated through the statement that “the country’s moral [sic] level at the time was greatly damaged and, this new National Anthem truly repaired Haiti’s spirit, [and] restored patriotism.”

Even more strongly than “The Star Spangled Banner,” the Haitian national anthem employs interconnected, syncretic elements to better spread and ingrain its message into the culture. In an alternative English translation, the beginning of the anthem reads “For our country, for our forebears, united let us march.” Vodou followers view this line “as a veneration of their belief as well as a veneration of their country and its founder.” In a journal article about recombinant mythology, Michael Largey explains that “Haitian intellectuals use Vodou as a cultural resource to enliven their own writing and saturate their prose with culturally resonant ideas.” The lyrical composer of “La Dessalinienne,” Justin Lhérisson, was a writer, lawyer, journalist, and teacher —an intellectual in a country that still contained many illiterate citizens. Lhérisson’s incorporation of Dessalines into Vodou religious practice allowed the spirit of Dessalines “to inhabit the bodies of contemporary Vodou initiates to show Haitians both the desirability and the risks of maintaining their national sovereignty.” By syncretically combining the ideas and figures of Haitian identity into an already established religious culture, Lhérisson effectively made “historical events more culturally saturated and, hence more resonant to culturally competent audiences.” These established beliefs helped the national anthem reach and speak to more Haitians, uniting a heterogeneous nation not simply on an ideational level, but on an emotional level that propelled national identity from the mind to the heart.

While national anthems as isolated pieces of music speak greater emotional volumes than simple prose about similar topics, it is the collective action of singing a national anthem that can fully develop and demonstrate a strong national identity. Although for most people music is meant to be heard, national anthems encourage every citizen to sing. The emotional connection that results is thus not contained to the individual, but collectively experienced in the moment by the group chanting love and pride for their nation. As time progressed, national anthems became more commonplace in non-war settings such as sporting events. Whether these anthems unite compatriots of opposing fan bases or supporters of a national team, the playing and unified singing of such music creates a patriotic, national bond in those everyday moments that causes citizens to tremble, weep, and take fervent pride in their nation that was once only an idea.

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Overcoming Inevitable Violence Through Violent Means

The status quo of colonialism is oppression and violence. Rhetoric from primary sources of the Haitian Revolution, British North American Revolution, and Amaru rebellion either promote or utilize violence to promote or quell uprisings. Although the revolutionaries in each case were underdogs in the fight against strong colonial powers, their recognition of short term losses for long term gains empowered them to overthrow deep-seated systems of oppression. While this mindset is universal across these three revolutions, the persuasive rhetoric and specific purpose behind the arguments for violence were unique to each case. Haitian slaves’ status of dehumanization demonstrated that there was nothing to lose in a revolution, wars that served no American interests and caused preventable violence made the American Colonies’ relationship with Britain illogical, and the colonial perspective of the Amaru rebellion proves the mindset of short term losses by attempting to raise the perceived costs of revolution through psychological violence. However, while each case was unique in perspective and persuasion, the rhetoric of violence demonstrates its inevitability under colonialism, and that increased, revolutionary violence in the short run is the only way to upend the oppressive system. 

The coercive plantation slavery of forcefully displaced Africans in Haiti demonstrates a social and political structure of dehumanization. The “Haitian Declaration of Independence, describes the status of slaves as “the most humiliating torpor” by an “inhuman government,” demonstrating the reasoning behind an end to the current system, although a daunting task (Haitian Declaration). The author further elaborates on the dehumanization and stripping of culture of the slaves, explaining that “everything revives the memories of the cruelties of this barbarous people: our laws, our habita, our towns, everything still carries the stamp of the French” (H. Dec). While less direct than chattel slavery, these constant reminders and forced assimilation to French culture dehumanize the Haitians. 

Stemming from this relegated status, independence through violent means became necessary. This necessity is argued in the rhetoric of the Declaration through the words, “in the end we must live independent or die” (H. Dec). Drawing comparisons from Patrick Henry’s “liberty or death” speech, the statement is more dichotomic than may first appear. Essentially, the writer is arguing that continuing the colonial system of oppression is death, and that independence is the only way to truly survive. Moreover, while a revolution is certain to lead to many deaths of Haitian rebels, this short term loss is viewed as necessary and beneficial since it is the only way to escape the death continually perpetuated by the French. Consequently, the Declaration states “independence or death … let these sacred words unite us and be the signal of battle and of our reunion,” exemplifying the role that dehumanization and prolonged death played in the decision to promote more severe short term violence. This violent rhetoric against “the barbarians who have bloodied [Haitian] land for centuries” derives from the inevitability of violence to continue as it had for centuries under French rule (H. Dec). While the 350,000 deaths of Haitians between 1791 and 1804 came at a tremendous loss of life through violence, for the dehumanized slaves of Haiti, this sacrificial, revolutionary violence served as the sole option in ending the violent and oppressive colonialism on the island (AW, 388). 

In Common Sense, Paine argues for independence from Britain from a logical perspective, while subtly encouraging the violent revolution to continue. Throughout Chapter 3 of Common Sense, Paine’s central claim of illogical union with Britain involves European wars that Britain forcefully draws its colonies into. Referring to Britain, Paine writes “she did not protect us from our enemies on our account, but from her enemies on her own account, from those who had no quarrel with us on any other account and who will always be our enemies on the same account” (Paine 34-35). He further criticizes Britain by claiming, “even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families,” relating to the Intolerable Acts and various instances of British aggression (Paine 35). Without directly mentioning violence, Paine argues that a continued bond with Britain is illogical due to the unnecessary and inevitable violence and war that results from it,  and that “nothing but independance [sic] .. can keep the peace of the continent” (Paine 37, 43). 

While the violence imposed on British North American colonies was less coercive than the slavery in Haiti, similar rhetoric of short term, revolutionary violence to upend the status quo pervaded. In continuing the logic-based argument for independence, Paine explains that the “[American] plan is commerce” which “will secure us peace and friendship of all Europe” (Paine 36). Paine claims that trade is the key to American success and that trade is only fully possible through peaceful relationships, contrasting the current state of European affairs via the British political and economic bonds. Thus, Paine is arguing against a status quo of violence that is inherent in colonialism, while simultaneously advocating for whatever means necessary in order to break the illogical relationship. Paine criticizes futile attempts to negotiate with the British by sharply stating, “every quiet method for peace hath been ineffectual. Our prayers have been rejected with disdain … [and that] nothing but blows will do,” ultimately arguing for a more radical form of revolution through violent means (Paine 39-40). As in Haiti, the rhetoric of violence is not necessarily preferable due to the tremendous costs and risks, but necessary in comparison to the inevitable continuation of violence that stems from remaining a colony. Paine continues to argue that “the next war may not turn out like the last,” meaning that the brutal costs that colonists suffered from a victorious war would be nothing in comparison to a defeat in a war that served no interest for Americans (Paine 37). Taking up violent arms against the British, even at high costs in a one-sided war, is put forth as the only rational option to overthrow the system of British coercion and continual violence. 

While violence in the previous documents demonstrated the centrifugal forces of independence, Areche’s perspective as a Spanish official describes violence used centripetally in order to coercively maintain the status quo of colonialism. In particular, the rhetoric of violence is not as practical, but rather psychological in nature. The Spanish were already in a position of power, so a sudden violent action was not necessary for them to achieve their ends. However, “[Amaru’s] rebellion’s brief success terrified Spanish officials,” and thus violence was not only used to physically put down rebellions, but to scare rebels from participating in them (AW, 319). This form of psychological violence directly relates to the inevitability of long term violence under colonialism, albeit viewed from the opposite perspective. The Spanish recognized the common revolutionary argument of pursuing short term violence, even in the face of widespread death, in hopes of achieving long term peace and freedom. Thus, the Spanish attempted to raise the costs of rebellion so high as to psychologically prevent revolutionary action. 

Amaru’s torture and execution vividly display the brutality and psychological effects of this violence. After being captured by the Spanish, Amaru’s tongue was cut out and he was quartered by horses, displaying extreme brutality in torture (AW, 319). Further, Areche writes that “[Amaru’s body] parts should be carried to the hill or high ground known as ‘Picchu,’ … and let his ashes be thrown into the air and a stone tablet placed there detailing his main crimes and the manner of his death as the only record and statement of his loathesome [sic] action” (Areche 169-170). Additionally, Areche mandates that “this sentence be proclaimed publicly with the greatest solemnity as soon as it arrives in their hands, and on the same day every year thereafter,” a reminder to help maintain the status quo of oppressive colonialism (170). Thus, while this document focuses on violence from a colonial perspective, it acknowledges the line of thinking associated with violent rhetoric across these three revolutions: colonialism breeds violence, but increased violence is the only way to end the oppression. 

Violent rhetoric in the context of an age of revolution is commonplace due to its ability to both divide and unify the colonizers and the colonized. This widespread application of violence as a double-edged political tool explains why violence is ultimately inevitable in a colonial system. In a society that is built on growing mistrust of the “other,” diplomacy continually fails, further making violence an inescapable feature of the political sphere. These circumstances allowed oppressed people in Haiti, British North America, and Peru, to rationalize waging violent action against far more powerful rulers. Because of its versatility, violence has become normalized and widely accepted over time, explaining why its rhetoric pervades these movements, despite differing contexts, and continues to be used for political motives today.

**Bibliography provided upon request. Searching the quotes on an Internet browser should help retrieve the original sources.**

College Campuses: No Place for Banned Speech

The increasingly popular practice of no-platforming, such as preventing someone from speaking on a college campus due to their political views, has created a philosophical debate that connects to the principles of free expression defined by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty. At first glance, Mill appears to vehemently oppose suppressing free speech, even controversial ideas, but his failure to elaborate on the no harm principle in relation to speech raises some uncertainties to what his position would be on the allowance of hate speech on campuses. I argue that this ambiguity of harm and inciting violence demonstrates that “no-platforming” is a misguided principle because it relies too much on subjective reaction, and not objective definitions of actions. “No-platforming” limits the ability of students to understand the truth and their own opinions and emboldens controversial speakers due to a lack of ideational exposure and the supplementation of authoritative decision-making for individual and rational evaluation and criticism, undermining the mission of a college education.

Mill’s consistent support for free speech demonstrates his likelihood for opposing “no platforming” in a widespread and generalized manner. But, the extent to which the speech inflicts harm or incites violence complicates his opinion on the practice to a case by case basis. Mill argues, “we can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still,” demonstrating his opposition to no-platforming in today’s society (19). Mill believes that this practice may silence ideas containing the truth, and thus limits the human ability to freely understand the truth, a central idea to his beliefs on liberty. Mill argues further that even ideas that are widely regarded as false should not be suppressed. Mill’s defense of allowing such ideas stems from his rejection of ideational infallibility, explaining “those who desire to suppress (ideas) have no authority to decide the question for all mankind, and exclude every other person from the means of judging” because this “is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty” (19). Thus, Mill’s concern is with authority determining the fallacy, such as a university administration banning a speaker, instead of the individual making his or her own judgments. Since he believes that all people are equal and should pursue their individual and rational assessments of ideas, “no platforming” violates individual liberty by giving more power to others to determine the worth of various ideas. Additionally, Mill believes that prohibiting the expression of an idea prevents people from being able to understand the intricacies of a subject, stating “the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion” (22). This belief further argues against “no platforming” because the practice does not allow students to engage with why an idea is false from a level of specificity. Simply being told that an idea is wrong and being unable to hear its components expressed allows students to lose sight of the grounds of truth and instead form their beliefs from prejudices of what they think the other side is arguing. Understanding the foundations for such beliefs is fundamental to undermining their validity, and “no platforming” eliminates the ability to deeply investigate, and thus understand fallacies.

However, Mill’s central belief on liberty that “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others” raises some uncertainties about his position on “no-platforming” because it is unclear whether certain ideas and speech cause harm to others (13). Especially, Mill’s opinion on banning hate speech is ambiguous. Mill clarifies his initial opinion on free speech by explaining, “even opinions lose their immunity, when the circumstances in which they are expressed are such as to constitute their expression a positive instigation to some mischievous act,” raising the question on what defines speech inciting violence (55). Mill does not conclude whether suppressing these situations is the best option, making his opinion on “no platforming” closer to a case by case basis.

Proponents of “no platforming” consider hate speech to be inherently harmful and thus view its dissemination to have no benefits to society. While implicit political and moral biases do play a role in support for banning opposite opinions, Mill’s harm principle is generally invoked in justification of “no platforming.” For example, proponents of the practice support preventing Richard Spencer, a controversial white supremacist, from being given a forum to express his ideas on a college campus. Proponents would argue that Spencer’s freedom of speech should be limited since it infringes on the rights of others to be free from harm. Further, hateful rhetoric could incite violence and then no longer would simply be speech, but direct harmful action. Richard Spencer’s arguments for racial superiority could cause certain students to commit crimes against minorities in the attempt to assert their dominance, and thus since the speech causes violence and other violations of rights, it should be silenced. This lack of safety prevents students from actively participating in campus society, meaning that allowing hate speech can go against a fundamental principle of a university: active and engaged learning. Besides the inflicted harm, proponents believe there is no intellectual gain from allowing hateful speakers on campus since their ideas are widely considered to be false. In fact, it could impede the search for truth, a key goal of students, by injecting useless opinions into campus discourse and making these ideas seem legitimate. Even considering the intricacies of the ideas that are a part of hate speech gives some legitimacy to them since this gives the possibility of the ideas being at least partially true. This process and consideration provides attention to hateful ideas which may allow them to be popularized and in turn harm even more people either directly through discrimination or indirectly from the speech’s violent effects. Thus, prohibiting hate speech from campuses allows for a focus on legitimate ideas, prevents discrimination and violence, and supports active campus participation, which are all consistent with the harm principle.

Contrarily, I argue that “no platforming” is too subjective, against the principles of a university education, and above all, contradictory to the meaningful search for truth. Although Mill argues that speech can be harmful to others at times, this does not justify “no platforming” for a variety of reasons. First, the classification of “harmful” cannot be clearly defined because it differs depending on the recipient of the hate speech. Laws need to be objective and clear in relation to a specific action taken by an actor (such as threats, a reasonable restriction on free speech), not actions dependent on the reaction of others. While many minorities are justifiably offended by the disgusting rhetoric of Richard Spencer, it affects them in different ways; some may take offense but not allow it to affect their daily lives, while for others it may harm them by limiting their ability to express themselves, feel safe, or actively participate in society, solely due to their racial identity. This demonstrates an inconsistency in what is justified legally and not since subjective outcomes are at play. The harm is wholly dependent on individual recipients, further demonstrating that a law cannot punish the speaker if his actions depend on other people’s reactions. The second problem with Mill’s harm principle in relation to hate speech is his discussion of inciting violence, which is also complicated by subjective recipients of the offensive language. Inciting violence cannot be objectively defined because the same speech could cause some listeners to commit acts of violence and others not to. However, if a speaker explicitly encourages acts of violence, such speech should be banned. But, while simply spewing hateful rhetoric can have a strong correlation with subsequent violence, it is difficult to prove causation and thus cannot be outlawed. Therefore, Mill’s harm principle should only be transformed into law when there is clear and objective harm as a result of a threat or a direct encouragement of violent acts, not when hate speech only has the subjective possibility of harming someone or inciting violence.

The argument made by proponents of “no platforming” that hate speech restricts the search for the truth is entirely contradictory. When students are exposed to hate speech, they are able to recognize the fallacies in the points made by the speaker and thus more thoroughly understand why they disagree with him. Mill agrees with this assessment, arguing “if (the opinion is) wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error” (19). Preventing hate speech from being disseminated on campuses prevents students from understanding what principles define the truth in the given topic and also makes their opinions less valid if they are only told that a given topic is wrong without investigating its intricacies. Mill also argues this point about the exposure of other ideas enhancing the strength and validity in belief in one’s own, saying if one is “unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion” (37). Students must be exposed to hateful ideas so that they can effectively counter them for legitimate reasons regarding truth, not merely because they are considered wrong by others.

Further, banning speakers from an authoritative position can embolden such hate groups by making the public unaware of their reasoning. Proponents of “no platforming” argue that providing a platform can popularize hateful ideas, but in fact, the ideas cannot be countered if people are not exposed to them. It is much more powerful for the majority of individuals to combat hateful rhetoric once they fully understand the opinions rather than universities banning hate speech as if it will make the ideas magically disappear. More emphasis needs to be placed on giving individuals the knowledge and power to fight for truth and equality from an informed and detailed perspective rather than allowing university administrations to broadly ban anything considered hateful. The lack of this emphasis on many of today’s college campuses runs counter to the mission of a college education: the ability of individuals to rationally and deeply explore various ideas. Universities should stay true to their purpose of providing students with the tools they need to think for themselves, and not continue to dictate which ideas are expressed on their campuses because “truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself” (34). Allowing students to individually and informatively combat fallacies and hatred is much more effective than a sweeping ban that is out of their control. Students need to be fully exposed to and aware of the details of all opinions because otherwise, they are not embarking on a meaningful search for truth.

While universities may believe that they have the best interests of their students in mind in the short run, the long-term effects of “no platforming” discourage individual thought. Universities must prioritize their stated missions of the rational search for truth instead of creating a false perception that hate and opposing ideas do not exist. If students are to be truly prepared to tackle real-world problems, campus life must reflect the realities, especially the harsh ones, of the society that students will enter upon graduation.

He Who Owns Us

The following short story is dedicated to the American Conservation Coalition, an organization advocating for a greater respect of nature and supporting market-based initiatives to unleash technological innovation to power the green movement for a cleaner and safer planet we call home.

Learn more at acc.eco

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He Who Owns Us

Rural Montana

Summer 1952

Dust kicked up behind the line of four station wagons, their headlights giving off bouncing beams across the plains. Pulling into the cul-de-sac in front of the ranch house rented for the week, the four families tiredly exited the vehicles, able to see only due to the glimmering fluorescence of the moon. Suitcases, hunting gear, and rifles were placed on the cold, wet ground while the mothers began to unlock the ranch house. The odor of jerky and ammunition pervaded the summer Montana night.

The expansive hallways lined with decades-old animal heads from previous hunts contained occasional drafts of wind that rattled the locks on the doors. At night, the various rocking chairs atop the large porch swayed back and forth in the wind, creaking the wood panels in harmonic rhythm.

All thirteen children filed into a large room with seven beds, each marked by an elk or bison head above it, while the four couples occupied a larger bedroom upstairs, absent of the everpresent displays of dead animals, but lined with rifle safes and racks for hunting packs, elk whistles, and all other contraptions needed to eventually add to the collection downstairs.

The first night, the wind was cool and calm, and the moonlight flickered throughout the house. A soft rain came against the shingles like the sounds of elk strolling through tall, yellow grasses. The children slept peacefully until the sounds of boots and odors of lit cigarettes awoke them in the early morning hours. The four men were preparing to embark on their first hunt, eagerly grabbing their rifles, kissing their wives goodbye for the day, and heading off in a tractor-pulled wagon.

As the hunters disappeared into the horizon of flowing, yellow grasses, the children excitedly rushed to the kitchen for breakfast at the scent of smoked venison. The sudden rush of the children shook the delicately furnished room, causing elk heads to tilt on the walls.

The children discussed their ideas for exploring the outdoors surrounding the ranch house, quickly coming to a consensus that they would play “Cowboys and Indians” with their brand-new toy guns. The children playfully ran around, taking turns at “shooting” each other, with hardly a sense of violence; they were simply innocent kids mimicking their favorite actors in the Westerns on television.

The return of the hunters brought a stench of death; the children were indifferent to it since their fathers had hunted all their lives. That night, as the hunters pulled a trailer weighed down by the addition of three elk carcasses through the tall grasses, the children decided to play hide and seek inside the house before dinner.

Annie, the youngest child on the ranch at five years old, meandered through the downstairs, searching for a spot only she could fit in. Eventually stumbling on a shaft once used for laundry, she squeezed her way high enough into it as to not be seen through the opening. The chamber was dark, occasionally lit up by a flickering candle in the hallway. In a brief moment of candlelight, Annie saw a small red marking on the wall. Squinting, she attempted to decipher its resemblance. She heard her brother coming down the hall, eagerly searching for his first victim of hide and seek. She shut the panel of the chamber. Darkness. The footsteps got louder, but Annie didn’t panic. Her senses were animalistic, like those of prey being hunted by men.

Three of the children hid under their beds in the large room, unable to seek better shelter in time. They were found within three minutes. They were motionless and unresponsive to their capture, each lying perfectly straight under the mattresses, heads directly under those of the animals on the wall. As the one brother discovered them, three distinct episodes of bleating rang from the direction of the hunting grounds. Suddenly, all three awoke, each immediately gasping for air as if being drowned. Pulling them from under the beds, the brother noticed a small, red marking under each of their left eyes, appearing to resemble antlers.

The room began to shake in sporadic increments as if heavy footsteps were coming closer. A few hunting plaques on the walls fell rapidly to the ground, while the heads above the beds loosened, rattled, and squeaked due to the scraping of wood against tattering wallpaper. The three mounts above the beds being used for hiding tumbled to the ground, shattering the antlers across the floor. The three marked children grabbed pieces of the antlers, placed them in their pockets, and walked out of the room single file, the wind of their exit extinguishing the candle nearest the door.  

***

The second night, the wind was sporadically gusty, causing one of the rocking chairs on the porch to fall over. The noise startled the four couples, hurrying to seal the windows shut to prevent any further disruption. Downstairs, the children twisted and turned, recklessly trying to find comfort amidst occasional racket. Three of them, those with the antler pieces, lay perfectly flat, heads facing the ceiling, eyes wide open, almost forgetting to blink.

***

“The wind knocked o’er some mounts down ‘ere Helen,” one of the hunters shouted upstairs as he checked on the children the following morning.   

“I’ll get a broom, I’ll get a broom, darlin’,” replied his wife. “Don’t ya worry ‘bout the pieces. Ya better get out to the huntin’ grounds before sunrise.”

The three children rose soon after the hunters left for the day, proceeding in the same direction, ignoring the tilted, rusted signs that read in chipped red paint, “WARNING” followed by “Entering Hunting Area.”

At breakfast, the mothers assumed the three children had gone out to watch the sunrise in the field, neglecting to ask the ten others to confirm the assumption.

Returning to their game of “Cowboys and Indians,” the ten children scurried around the premises of the ranch for hours on end, only heading inside to savagely gulp water from a decades-old spigot.

In the late hours of the afternoon, Annie tripped on a jutting root, face planting into the unevenly damp dirt. Her brothers carried her in like a wounded animal, her tears fueling the humid heat.

Still treating Annie’s various wounds and exhausted from hours of reenacting Custer’s Last Stand using guns with orange tips, the ten children took out a decades-old box of Monopoly. The kitchen table was empty at the time, the mothers preoccupied with sweeping up the aftermath of the previous night’s gusts and consequently, failing to recognize the lengthy absence of the three other children.

***

Later that evening, the ten children yawned over occasional sips of pink lemonade, Monopoly money scattered around. As Annie dominated the board, her thimble gracing her own property with pride, the three other children, the marked ones, entered the house through the screeching storm door. Yet somehow, they drew no attention to themselves at first. They walked single file down the hall lined with decades-old animal heads, their draft extinguishing the candle as they entered the bedroom. Only one of the children, the oldest brother, briefly peered up from his handful of pink and yellow paper bills, before refocusing on his Atlantic Avenue strategy.

Within the next thirty minutes, Annie controlled the board, and the ten children went off to sleep in the bedroom, finding the other three laying flat on their beds, the remnants of the elk mounts gone from the previous night’s incident, except that Lakota writing, “wapiti,” had been etched into the hardwood, with a hint of white, where the pieces of antlers once were. Too tired to think anything of the increasingly strange occurrences, the ten children dozed off to sleep: the youngest eight, including the jittery, celebratory Annie, onto the four beds marked by bison heads; the two oldest on the cold wood floor, with a few pillows and blankets that seemed decades-old.

The third night, the wind was violent.

Without warning or initial rattling loose, the four bison heads slammed to the floor, leaving scrapes and dents, the ten children gasping for air as if being drowned, while the three others rose quietly, left the room in single file, and headed for the back porch, where the rocking chairs fought with the wind.

Upstairs the adults struggled to barricade their windows, the trembling of the wind knocking the housewives to the floor, while the fathers cursed in the name of God Almighty, flexing their muscles to fight nature’s wrath.

Downstairs in the bedroom, the oldest brothers, flying out of their scant blankets, rushed to Annie, noticing her wounds had taken the shape of symmetrical horns, bleeding profusely into the off-white sheets. Annie’s shrieks only became worse when one of the other children kicked over a green gas lamp, decades-old, causing the sheets to go up in vibrant flames. The newly arrived light, by way of fire, displayed the bleeding arms of the eight children previously sleeping in the beds. Two distinct lines of blood flowed out, curving in perfect symmetry, on their left arms. The second-oldest brother quickly extinguished the flames with a rusty red fire extinguisher, before attempting to use what was left of the sheets as tourniquets.

On the porch, the three children grabbed the four rifles, kept outside to dry, laying in a scattered stack, almost vanishing due to the wind. They marched inside, past the busts in the hallway and into the room, single file, rifles on shoulders as if in a parade. Reaching out their right arms, and for one of them both arms, they bellowed, “wapiti.” The scars on the pale white skin under their eyes signaled four of the bleeding children, including Annie who miraculously ceased crying, to clasp the rifles and proceed into the hallway, single file.     

Just before slamming the windows shut, grunts intertwined with roaring trampling hissed through the pane. Then, the rumbling knocked the window off kilter, causing a tumultuous rush of wind and the scent of the wild to storm through.

CRASH. The ranch house shook violently, knocking down every animal bust, picture frame, and even the Monopoly box, scattering the colorful palate of worthless paper onto the floor.

CRASH. The ranch nearly collapsed at the second hit, grunting noticeably audible from below. Two of the men rushed downstairs, failing to glance down the first floor hallway to their armed children, and out onto the porch where they were met face-to-face with bulky, brown bison that seemed to have struck the ranch house violently upon arrival. The bison blinked. Large black eyes ready to attack. They charged.

The steps creaked aggressively at the movement, but it didn’t last long. Speared on the horns, the two men bled profusely onto the cold wood of the porch.

Screams could be heard from upstairs as one of the housewives slipped out of the blown open window, falling tens of feet to her death.

CRASH. CRASH. Two more bison slammed into the side of the ranch house. An upstairs bookcase, decades-old, immediately smothered a housewife. Only her slippers were visible from underneath the debris.

One of the remaining couples rushed downstairs to escape the increasingly dangerous bedroom, indicative of a war zone that reminded one father of his times in Okinawa years before. They were overcome by the trampling of four bison.

The remaining wife, managing to evade the moving bison, headed for the downstairs bedroom, wishing to find her children unharmed, but instead finding four rifles aimed at her chest, before dropping to the ground at the sound, in perfect harmonic unison, of the gunpowder exploding.

The father, deeply confused at everything he was hearing—rumbling footsteps, occasional shrieks, thumps of bodies, and snaps of gunshotssprinted down the stairs and out the door, grabbing a set of keys to a station wagon that hung gently on a bulletin board near the ranch entrance. With no regard for the safety of his children, especially his youngest Annie, he ran. He ran. It was the longest thirty yards, over the dark mud, that he ever ran.

Inside the downstairs bedroom, the two oldest children were too busy treating the bleeding of the other younger ones to even comprehend the shooting that just took place. Blood was everywhere.

The station wagon wouldn’t start. Brrrrt. Brrrrt. The engine tried hard, especially under pressure from the adrenaline pumping father, but it didn’t turn over. He managed to turn the battery on, awakening the radio and the headlights, immediately revealing an odd sight in front of him. It was not the four sprinting bison he diligently managed to evade in desperation, but the slow, quiet approach of his youngest daughter carrying his prized hunting rifle. The confident manner in which she held it surpassed the strength, intelligence, and determination norms of a five-year-old.

“Honey. Honey. Oh my sweet Annie what are you doing with that?” he asked in a confused, yet pleading voice, through the windshield.

Raising the rifle, Annie’s wounds again opened up, trickling blood from her arm to the rifle.

“He owns us. He owns this land, not you,” Annie announced fervently.

“Who owns this? Who owns this land, Annie? Annie put that down. Annie! Who owns this?” he shouted desperately.

“Tatanka,” she whispered.

The shot shattered the windshield, leaving a single bullet wound in her father’s forehead, blood trickling down on two sides, in the shape of a horn.

Annie dropped the rifle into the dirt and slowly wandered toward the hunting ground, disappearing into the night.

The car battery began to falter as she left the premises of the ranch.

***

A few hours later, chirps of birds rang out in harmonic unison, and scurrying sounds of animals’ footsteps steadily set to their own tempo echoed for miles over the horizon of flowing, yellow grasses, a continuation of the natural beauty that had once been, until recent decades, untouched for thousands of years.

The rugged cul-de-sac, deteriorating under moonlight, sat poised with the occasional beating of flag grommets against a metal pole, tossed around helplessly in the wind. It was dark. The only light emanated from the short-circuiting, dim yellow flickering of a station wagon headlight. The sound diminished as the sporadic clicks blended with the muffled voice of Tony Bennett on the static radio.

Put the Phones Down

After placing our usual order of half parmesan garlic and half medium buffalo wings, my friend reaches down to grab his phone, pauses, and looks up at me. He says, “I’m not forgetting about the no phone policy, I just have to text my dad real quick.” I laugh and say, “no worries.” My friends like to joke that I sound like their mothers when I essentially call them out for using phones while we’re out to eat, but they’ve come to understand its importance and appreciate its effect. While checking Instagram is fun and looking through sports scores can be intriguing, it’s always bothered me when it happens in the presence of others and in a place meant for human interaction.

Human beings are social creatures. Through time, eating has been a chance for humans to share stories and laugh about whatever they desire. But over the past decade, this tradition has slowly faded, much to my dismay. It bothers me deeply, in a way that I can’t completely explain in words, because words, like texts, can only convey so much emotion compared to the physical communication with another human being. Looking over at a friend and sharing laughs fuels me in an indescribable way. So every time I order some wings, I know it’ll come with an hour with my friend to fully enjoy what makes humans truly happy: the presence and interaction of another without the interruption of technology.  

Contacto europeo y la psicología de (des)igualdad

The following essay is an investigation into the psychology and historical context behind how the natives’ perception of the Spanish determined the outcome of the encounters rather than the physical capabilities of the Spanish.

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Aunque los conquistadores de España tenían armas más avanzadas y educaciones más formales que los indios que querían conquistar, el resultado de la conquista dependía más de la conciencia de los indios que las capacidades de los españoles. Las primeras impresiones de las españoles eran más importantes para el éxito de los indios. Si los indios hubieran visto a los españoles como si hubieran sido iguales, los indios habrían tenido una mayor probabilidad de victoria. El estado psicológico con respecto a la igualdad daba a los indios una confianza necesaria para controlar su destino. Pero, si los indios hubieran creído que los españoles eran dioses y eran de una clase inexplicablemente superior, los españoles los habían conquistado con inmensa fuerza y brutalidad.

Es muy impresionante y extraño que Hernán Cortés y sus 500 hombres fueran capaces de derrotar a un imperio con una civilización sofisticada y una fuerza militar. Esta hazaña provoca una investigación sobre cómo los españoles ganaron. Cuando los españoles llegaron por primera vez a Veracruz, el rey Azteca, Moctezuma, envió a Cortés un manto religioso del dios Quetzalcoatl. Porque Cortés pensaba que el manto era un regalo, se lo puso. Sin embargo, los aztecas creían que el portador del manto era el dios y por lo tanto, Moctezuma y los aztecas creían que Cortés era un dios. Además, los aztecas no estaban familiarizados con el impresionante arsenal de las armas y los barcos españoles. Los aztecas creían que la tecnología superior tenía que ser de los dioses (Our Worldviews). La creencia inmediata de clases diferentes causaba que los aztecas actuaran sumisamente. Además, los miedos de los ciudades estado les causaban aliarse con los españoles. Estos ciudades estado odiaban a los aztecas y por lo tanto, ellos ayudaban a los españoles debido a un objetivo común de derrota también (Our Worldviews). Si algunos ciudades estado no quisieran juntar con los españoles, Cortés mataría a los líderes y demostraría su potencia de fuego. Por lo tanto, la creencia de los españoles como dioses proporcionaba a los españoles una multitud de aliados. Eventualmente, Moctezuma permitía que Cortés visitara Tenochtitlan para una reunión. Moctezuma proporcionaba lujosos alojamientos y trataba a Cortés con tremendo respeto (Our Worldviews). Moctezuma físicamente tenía el poder para matar Cortés y sus hombres, pero su estado psicológico le daba a Cortés la ventaja. Cortés era consciente de su reputación. Él sabía que los aztecas creían que era un dios. Por lo tanto, Cortés aprovechaba las falacias psicológicas de los aztecas y capturó Moctezuma. Para terminar la conquista, Cortés regresó a Tenochtitlan con sus aliados Tlaxcalan y Texcoco (Our Worldviews). Si los nativos hubieran reconocido inmediatamente la amenaza que los españoles planteaban a todos los nativos, los nativos habrían prevenido las alianzas que ayudaban a los españoles a continuar su conquista. Además, si Moctezuma se hubiera dado cuenta que Cortés era un invasor y un humano, habría matado fácilmente a Cortés y sus hombres para acabar la conquista y preserva el imperio azteca. El estado psicológico de la desigualdad determinaba definitivamente el resultado de la conquista. Los aztecas no estaban en desventaja, pero ellos pensaban que estaban en desventaja y por lo tanto, los españoles podían brutalmente conquistar a los aztecas con solamente 500 hombres españoles.

En Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias, Bartolomé de Las Casas describe la brutalidad y la conquista violenta de los indios en las Indias. ¿Tienen los indios verdaderamente la desventaja o sus impresiones iniciales y miedos psicológicos impulsan a los españoles a la victoria? Los españoles descubren las Indias en el año 1492. Las Casas describe a los indios como “naturales gentes” que implica que los indios no son ni sofisticados ni educados. También, este es el primer viaje europeo al nuevo mundo y por lo tanto, los indios no son conscientes de la identidad de los españoles. Las Casas describe a los indios como los “más humildes, más pacientes, más pacíficas y quietas, sin rencillas ni bollicios, no rijosos, no querulosos, sin rancores, sin odios, sin desear venganzas” y esta descripción demuestra que los indios no asumen que los españoles son una amenaza (Las Casas, 12-13). Porque los indios no tienen contacto previo con los españoles, su estado psicológico es pasivo. De hecho, los indios creen que los españoles son dioses porque Las Casas dice, “los tuvieron por venidos del cielo,” (83). Esta creencia no disuade a los indios de luchar contra los invasores como en la situación de los aztecas, sino la creencia causa a los indios asumir que los españoles no quieren hacerles daño. Por esto, los “españoles, por su crueldades y nefandas obras, han despoblado y asolado y que están hoy desiertas.” (Las Casas, 54-55) Los españoles no tienen resistencia porque los indios no pueden comprender que los españoles son humanos y invasores crueles. Si los indios reconocieran inmediatamente que los españoles quieran hacer daño, los indios serían capaces de dar alguna nivel de resistencia. Pero, esta situación es otro ejemplo de un estado psicológico de desigualdad e ignorancia que provoca una brutal derrota para los indios.

En la mayoría de los encuentros entre los españoles y los nativos, los indios no tenían conciencia de la meta de los españoles y no estaban preparados para defenderse. Pero, hay algunos ejemplos notables cuando los indios ganaban. Después de colonizar Puerto Rico, Juan Ponce de León llegaba en Florida. La tribu predominante en la área era los calusa (Indian Country). Willie Johns, un historiador para la tribu seminole de Florida, dice “They were civilized, really.” Profesor Jerald Milanich dice, “Ponce de León twice encountered indigenous people on the east coast, where he likely took captives to serve as guides and to get information.” Los encuentros anteriores daba a los indios un presentimiento de la meta de Ponde de León. Porque los indios eran civilizados, ellos podían comunicar los presentimientos anteriores a toda la tribu. En esencia, los calusa eran preparados para contacto futuro. Milanich dice, “The calusa proved to be a match for the Spaniards. They refused to cooperate.” Por eso, “early attempts at nearby settlements flopped.” (Milanich) Aylsa Landry, la autora del artículo, dice “The tribe had a chief, a complex government and a warrior class, and it thwarted Ponce de Leon’s efforts to infiltrate.” Estos hechos demuestran que la consciencia colectiva de los calusa en relación con la meta de los españoles les permitían defender su tierra. Claramente, los calusa no pensaban que los españoles fueran dioses. Ellos estaban dispuestos y preparados a combatir los españoles. Ocho años después, Ponce de León devolví a Florida y de nuevo encontraba los calusa. Los calusa acataron los españoles rápidamente y le dio a Ponce de León un flechazo mortal (Indian Country). Este encuentro fortalecía la victoria de los calusa sobre los españoles y demuestra que el conocimiento colectivo de los calusa permite que una tribu con armas inferiores venza a un imperio con armas mejores.

Después de la expedición fallida de Ponce de León, Pánfilo de Narváez llegó en la costa oeste de Florida con 300 hombres. Los indios en el área eran hostiles y por eso los españoles viajaban al norte. Eventualmente, ellos encontraron el territorio de los indios apalachee (Wikipedia). Esta decisión demuestra que los indios apalachee sabían la meta violenta de los españoles porque los españoles habían atacado la Florida en el pasado. Narváez se cansaba de la expedición porque los españoles no descubrían el oro y fueron atacados por los indios. Los españoles construían balsas para volverse al mar vía el interior. Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, el segundo a cargo, dirigía una de ellas. Esta balsa se separaba de las otras y cuando llegaba en la costa, la historia de primera mano de Núñez de Vaca empieza (Wikipedia). Núñez de Vaca describe, “íbamos desnudos, y el frío que hacía era muy grande,” (Núñez de Vaca, 13-14). Esta descripción revela la humanidad de los españoles porque están sufriendo. El sufrimiento indica que los españoles no son dioses y no proponen una amenaza a los indios. De hecho, los indios exhiben compasión humana. Núñez de Vaca relata, “Los indios, de ver el desastre que nos había venido y el desastre en que estábamos, con tanta desventura y miseria se sentaron entre nosotros, y con gran dolor y lástima que hubieron de vernos en tanta fortuna comenzaron todos a llorar recio.” (Núñez de Vaca, 36-39) Aunque los indios no tienen información anterior de los españoles como los indios en Florida, el reconocimiento de los indios que los españoles son humanos permite una victoria en esencia para los indios. Ellos no combaten los españoles, pero mantienen su territorio y aun cuidan por los españoles como resultado de compasión humana. Los indios tienen un estado psicológico de igualdad desde el principio, y por eso esta tribu permanece en contacto antes del contacto europeo.

Los enfrentamientos entre los indio y los españoles tienen muchas semejanzas con la guerra asimétrica entre el talibán y los Estados Unidos en la guerra contra el terror. El talibán claramente tenía una desventaja tácticamente, pero ellos creían que pertenecían a una religión superior y que estaban cumpliendo​ ​la voluntad de Alá. Por lo tanto, el talibán tenía un estado psicológico que eran personas superiores aunque el ejército estadounidense era superior militarmente. El talibán tenía una motivación radical y este estado psicológico le daba algunas victorias sobre una superpotencia mundial al igual que los indios.

 

Peace for Syria

When Paris was attacked, we led social media campaigns with logos of the Eiffel Tower in a peace sign and stood in solidarity with the victims. When Belgium was attacked, we changed our Facebook profile pictures to have the Belgian flag overlaid on them. These responses were great and show the love and support we are capable of giving.

But…

When Syria is in a state of constant turmoil due to civil war, when the Syrian government is executing innocent people in their own homes, when Syrian refugees have nowhere to go, when Syrian families are split apart, when parents lose their children, and children their parents every single day… we look away.

We look away because “those people over there aren’t like us.” We have few connections with their culture, religion, and way of life. But we have the only connection that we need to grieve with them, feel for them, and help them in their time of suffering and need; we are all humans. We are all one human family. Just because they live somewhere far away, wear different clothing, speak a different language, and practice a religion somewhat unfamiliar to us does not make them any less human than we are.

This is not just a message to the US Government. This is a message to the American people. The government can craft policies, but the people are the ones who can strengthen the bonds of our human family by simply showing that we feel for them, and that we love them. I’m not saying that everyone has to donate money, although that would help. I’m just asking that you acknowledge their pain and put yourself in their shoes.

We see reports on the news so often now about terrorism that we have become used to it. We look at a headline and think “what else is new?” But it doesn’t have to be that way. Now, I’m aware that some of you who are even reading to this point will think a moment about what I’m saying, but others will just scroll down to the rest of social media that details the glamorized and fortunate society that we live in.

It’s our choice. We can speak out against these acts of violence, or we can pretend like nothing is going on.

Just a little bit of support and love for our brothers and sisters suffering in Syria can go a long way.

Sending love to the victims of this horrible tragedy,
Mike Brodo